Rams To Part Ways With Bobby Wagner

As cost-cutting season begins to take shape around the NFL, a major name on the defensive side of the ball is set to hit the open market. The Rams are mutually parting ways with linebacker Bobby Wagner, reports ESPN’s Adam Schefter (Twitter link).

The 32-year-old was one of the more sought-after veterans last offseason after his storied Seahawks tenure came to an end. He stayed in the NFC West, inking a five-year, $50MM deal. That allowed the future Hall of Famer to head home, though the possibility of a move such as this one remained given the structure of the deal. It came out not long after Wagner signed the Rams pact that the agreement was essentially for two seasons in terms of guarantees, and gave him the option of voiding the final three years.

Wagner was an every-down starter for the Rams this season, logging over 1,000 snaps for the fourth straight campaign. His production (including 140 tackles, six sacks and five pass deflections) earned him second team All-Pro honors. He was also PFF’s highest-graded middle linebacker, a testament to his value even in the waning stages of his career. Wagner will once again find himself amongst the league’s top free agents next month.

Mike Garafolo tweets that this move will not become official until the new league year begins in March. Five days after that point, the contract would have seen Wagner’s 2023 salary of $7.5MM (along with a $2.5MM roster bonus in 2024) become fully guaranteed. He did not waive that clause, per Schefter (Twitter link). Nevertheless, this will save the Rams considerable cap space for each of the next four seasons, including $5MM in 2023.

That figure will be counterbalanced by a dead cap hit of $7.5MM for this season, presuming Wagner’s guarantee remains in place as scheduled. His cap hit was set to spike to $12.5MM in 2023, and remain around that level through the 2026 campaign. Los Angeles will thus save much-needed space as they look to rebound from a disastrous Super Bowl title defense which saw much of the team’s veteran nucleus (including Matthew Stafford, Cooper Kupp and Aaron Donald) end the season on the sidelines through injuries. Each of that trio is under contract after signing new deals last offseason, so Wagner represents a more logical release candidate for cost-cutting purposes.

Los Angeles entered today roughly $15MM over the cap, so they will still have work to do in advance of free agency. That period will be an interesting one from their perspective, but also that of Wagner, who received serious interest from the Ravens before choosing to sign with the Rams. Baltimore made a midseason splash at the trade deadline, acquiring Roquan Smith from the Bears and subsequently signing him to an historic extension. Their massive commitment to Smith – along with the presence of former first-rounder Patrick Queen – would make a second pursuit on the Ravens’ part highly unlikely.

No shortage of other teams will be willing to sign the nine-time Pro Bowler, though. A short-term pact with an appropriate amount of guarantees would allow him to fulfil his reported desire of landing on a contender, something the Rams may struggle to re-establish themselves as (even with head coach Sean McVay remaining) barring much better luck on the health front. Los Angeles will move forward with Ernest Jones still in place in the middle of their defense, but a lack of established players alongside him currently under contract. Wagener, meanwhile, will begin assessing his options on the open market.

View Comments (24)